Is This the Future of Returns for eCommerce?

Shopping is one of the great British past-times and we love it, but sometimes we buy things that just don’t fit the bill and we’re put into what can feel like an arduous task, returning them.

As much as the eCommerce experience has increased hugely and it has become easier to get the stuff we want, the thing that to me feels like it has been forgotten about is the other end of the process. We ultimately don’t set out to buy stuff to have to return it, but it can be unavoidable.

If you’ll allow me a moment to get onto my soapbox, I’ll share a recent experience of mine.

 

The Returns and Exchange Process Right Now

Having recently returned to the UK it now just happens to be the case that my mother’s birthday and Mother’s Day fall in the same month, literally days apart. As I always do, I headed online to buy up some gifts to make sure she would see how much I appreciate her.

The Mother’s Day gift was an easy pick, I knew what I was getting would be perfect and would do the job nicely. When it came to her birthday gift, I wanted to push the boat out and bought something that was size reliant.

It arrived and the big day came and although I had picked her size, the item came up a little small. ‘No worries, I’ll get them changed for you’ I tell her. She decides that she would prefer a different style and maybe we should go up a size ‘just in case’.

Thankfully the sale came with a returns label in the box, and I was to tick a box and drop the paperwork back in with the product and get it sent back. Of course, before we had completed this we had been online looking for the new items we wanted to exchange the product for.

I kept thinking to myself ‘Why can’t I pick the item I want so that when they get it back and declare it fit for return, they can just send me the new ones?’ This wasn’t an option, so I followed the process, sent it back and waited for the refund, before buying the replacement.

Whilst we waited, I thought to myself ‘Maybe there might be a better deal out there or something else she might like instead?’ which of course left me browsing the internet on several different retailer’s websites looking at other things. I ultimately decided not to buy something else and to go back and get the original chosen replacement, but I wondered how many other people in the same position just would not bother, resulting in a lost sale for the retailer.

For those of you who are wondering, the replacements did arrive but being a different style meant the size up was a bad idea so we had to go through an exchange process again but with the stores opening up again decided to go in-store in the hope that we could simply change the size.

The lockdown meant that most of the stock you’d expect in the store was not there due to older stock having been left to float around but we were able to change them and get new ones sent to the house without having to do the refund/repurchase dance.

 

There Has Got to be a Better Way

This wasn’t the first time I had dealt with this type of thing and it always plays on my mind when I buy something from a new store or a new brand. The risk of having to wade into the process of returning things can sometimes overwhelm the excitement of buying them in the first place.

I couldn’t get the idea of being able to pick the item I wanted in exchange before sending it back out of my mind. Surely this wasn’t radical thinking? Someone must have thought of this before and surely, I wasn’t the only one wanting it as an option when shopping.

The answer to those questions came to me during a google news search. I spotted an article on Adweek ‘Affirm to Buy Returnly for $300 Million as Ecommerce Returns Spike During the Pandemic’ and it caught my attention.

I hadn’t heard of Returnly before but another quick google search got me to their home page and I’ve got to say what I found, brought absolute pleasure to my heart.

 

The Better Way

Self-described as ‘a return experience like no other’, they give customers the ability to pick the right item before sending back the wrong one. This is exactly what I had talked about when I was going through the returns process. Putting control of the experience in the hands of the customer is what good customer experience is all about.

I should point out that we’re not affiliated with Returnly but after having discovered them, I felt it was worth letting retailers know that they should be taking a serious look at what they’re offering.

Allowing customers to exchange for size, style or a completely different product directly from the return’s portal is brilliant customer experience. Returnly pays for the order on behalf of your customers, so they can get the right item before returning the wrong one.

And if the customer is not in the market for an exchange you can give customers a smooth return experience that automates the return and refund process altogether, so your team can focus on more valuable work.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what Returnly can offer both you and your customers and as a customer myself, if I was to purchase from a retailer that offered this level of refund and exchange it would almost certainly become a driving factor in whether I chose to make a purchase from other retailers I came across in the future.

Retailers work so hard to get people onto their stores and to get them shopping with them, so why would you put any level of risk around them not coming back because of an old or broken return and exchange process.

Working to retain relationships with existing customers should be as important, if not more so, and it appears that sometimes businesses can forget that. Paying attention to the entire lifecycle and making sure the customer experience is seamless and well-designed can only be a good thing for everyone.

Go take a look at what Returnly has to offer and see if it could work as part of your offering to your customers. I’m sure both you and them would benefit from an enhanced post-purchase journey.

And if you'd like help enhancing your customer experience across your entire site, we can help with that. Our Experience team are experts at enhancing and creating design, UI, UX experiences and developing and implementing conversion rate optimisation strategies across eCommerce. Come talk to us about your site and let's make a plan together.


Laptop in coders view

You're Not Thinking About Accessibility Enough

Broadly speaking, making a site accessible means accommodating the range of ways that users can interact with your product, regardless of experience, capability or disability. Often people think of accessibility in terms of extremes; how would a blind person interact with a site? 

While it makes sense to prioritise things that are going to take more effort to integrate and test, the truth is, your potential user base is almost infinite its combination of characteristics and capabilities, and a truly accessible site should be able to accommodate them all.

It can sound like an unachievable goal, and for product owners trying to apply accessibility standards to an already existing site, knowing where and how to start can be difficult. However, the key and most important things are to start. 

Legally required levels of accessibility are no longer things reserved for government organisations. Legal requirements mean predetermined standards and probably the most widely adopted standard are those laid out in WCAG. These are a set of standards created in cooperation with individuals and organisations around the world, to provide a single shared standard for web content accessibility that meets the needs of individuals, organisations, and governments internationally.

It’s all too easy to decide “this site will be AA accessible”, by which it meets the mid-range level of conformity, and work backwards and forward from there. Making a site accessible can simply become working through a checklist; do images have alt tags, are the contrast ratios high enough on the buttons? While this in itself can be a valuable process to go through, but it isn’t the whole story. At the end of the day, it’s crucial to remember the whole reason for undertaking accessibility improvements; your users. 

User experience is the ultimate test of success on your site. Better user experience often means a better conversion rate. Your user base can vary widely, and while you can follow best practices and accommodate the 95th percentile, at the end of the day, there’s no substitute for user testing. 

It can be achieved many different ways, at Eclipse we often use A/B tests to decide the best approach to design. However you do your testing, you can be sure of two things; one, that it will give you a better insight into how people interact with the site, and two, there will be results that you were not expecting.

In a recent example, we were looking at the design of a CTA button. By adhering to the brand’s guidelines, the button was bright orange and the label text in the button was white. 

Following AA standards, the contrast ratio wasn’t high enough to be considered accessible. On paper, the label text should be dark. But that’s not the whole story. A sample group of test users actually found the dark label less easy to read than the white version.

 

 

 

It’s not uncommon; there are numerous examples of similar tests producing the same result. The contrast ratio guide is supposed to ensure that the label is legible for people with visual impairments like colour blindness. But even when all the users questioned where colour blind, they favoured the white label over the “accessible” dark label. 

There could be numerous explanations for this, but it’s important to consider the human factor in everything we design. The way we see things is inherently imperfect and everything needs to be considered in context. 

In the case of the button label, the preference for the white label could be explained by the irradiation effect. In essence, when there is a border between something light and something dark, our retinas actually shift the divide towards the dark, so that the white seems to bleed over slightly.

In the case of the button label, the white text feels bigger or thicker to our eyes. Again, context is important; our eyes perceive colours differently depending on the colour around them. For this button, it was also being used on a light page. All the white space around the button increases the irradiation effect on the white button label.    

Obviously, standards and guidelines serve a purpose. Even in the button label tests, nearly 40% of the users favoured the recommended accessible colours. The fact of the matter is, users who struggle are often a minority.

 

 

Guidelines help factor the needs of a minority into our design choices. Design can be subjective and we need to agree on some ground rules. Particularly when it comes to factors or impairments that might not impact us directly. It’s almost impossible to preempt all your users' needs, but it’s important to try. 

However, it’s also important to know when to be flexible enough to break those rules, to accommodate your users. The only way to know that definitively is to be having regular interaction with your users. Guidelines help you start that conversation, but ultimately it’s user testing that will let you know if you got it right.


Conversational Commerce : The Next Big Thing?

Ecommerce is awesome. It is incredibly convenient and during the global pandemic we've been through and in most cases are still living in, it has been our lifeline to the outside world and allowed us to still get access to the products we needed in a safe and secure way. But shopping is about more than just what you buy: it's a treasure hunt to discover something new, a negotiation to get a great deal, a time to catch up with friends and family. This is the one thing that businesses are still trying to solve for ecommerce. It's the customer and 'in-store' experience we want to emulate.

Many see online shopping as an experience that can be impersonal and somewhat unsatisfactory as an event. Is there a way to bring back the magic?

In this Ted talk we found, Nimisha Jain introduces us to "conversational commerce," a new retail model that combines the convenience of a digital experience with the personalised touch of a real, human interaction. With exciting examples from companies in India, Thailand and China, there are lesson to be learnt that could change the face of ecommerce as we know it and introduce a new era to us all.

 


Man sitting at laptop

What Does 2021 Have Instore For Retail

In an article released by IGD last week they highlighted key trends they thought would ‘shape global retail in 2021’ and having had a look through them, we tend to agree.

‘Driving online profitability, creating safe shopping spaces, and bringing the out-of-home experience in-home’ were among them and in this post, we’re going to take a closer look at some of them identified as ‘stand out’ for businesses to focus on this year.

 

System upgrade: digitally enhancing operations

The pandemic created an acceleration of the shift toward a digitally focused economy and 2021 is set to continue this shift. As Head of Innovation and Futures at IGD, Toby Pickard put it “The pandemic has accelerated retailers and shoppers’ digital awareness and capabilities. Numerous companies have been testing and learning from new digital initiatives, and in 2021 companies will need to move beyond this to improve and implement at scale. Digital transformation will require new leadership and a fresh cultural mindset as companies create flexible and agile ways of working.”

Embracing this change and adapting to it is what is required of businesses in 2021. IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • Introduction of digital technologies that have a low capital investment and are easy to update
  • Partnerships with third-party technology providers to speed up new tech introduction
  • More use of machine learning and artificial intelligence at store level to drive revenue and increase customer satisfaction

 

Escalating ecommerce: driving online and profitability

Every single person has been in the crosshairs of this during 2020 and now even into 2021. Lockdown followed by lockdown has left retailers and shoppers alike with very little option but to venture into the world of shopping online. Multiple reports have indicated that the shift towards shopping online has been brought forward by at least five years.

When looking at this trend specifically Toby Pickard said: “With many shoppers using the channel for their large weekly shop, we have seen retailers focus on enhancing the pickup, or click and collect, experience to help improve profitability. This has included adding more collection slots, expanding order staging areas and parking bays and ensuring a contactless experience. While the initial surge is receding, online penetration is expected to remain at a higher level, compared to pre-crisis.”

We see this happening across all of retail, not just the food industry. Having the capability to allow for click and collect my just be the thing that helps bricks and mortar stores survive. People will inevitably continue to lean on online first as a way to discover new products but having an option to either have it delivered or collected in a store may give you what you need to stand out amongst your competitors.

IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • Retailers seeking to reduce their overall operating costs to accommodate online, improving processes and automation
  • Encouraging shoppers towards click and collect
  • Retailers assessing the options for rapid delivery, for example the same day or in a few hours

 

Holistic health: supporting health and wellness

The pandemic has brought home the seriousness of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and it is easy to see why this is going to be a trend that grows in 2021.

Eco-concise retail was a big trend in 2020 and the desire to reduce your impact on the environment was a lifestyle that started to gain traction. 2021 sees this go one step further and consumers are looking inward at what they need to do for themselves, as well as keeping their carbon footprint at the forefront of their decisions.

As Toby Pickard puts it “Health and wellness naturally became more important to everyone in 2020. We saw a wide range of activities from retailers as they aimed to encourage healthier lifestyles. We will see more retailers educating, informing and rewarding shoppers for living healthier lives. Companies will look to champion both their health and sustainability credentials, as the two key trends merge, of their existing and new products. Personal health will increase in importance, but ultimately affordability may take precedence during economic downturns.”

Bringing these credentials to the front of what you do and creating content that talks to the consumers wants and needs will help you build relationships not only with existing customers but will open you up to a new audience.

IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • Greater focus from shoppers on hygiene and sanitation products for individuals and the home
  • Retailers and brands trying to differentiate themselves by helping shoppers and consumers live healthier lives
  • More tailored solutions in-store, either through assistants or using digital tools like apps

 

Recuperative retail: focusing on sustainability

Climate change has been on the radar for years and years and it continues to be at the top of a lot of peoples lists. When commenting on sustainability, Toby Pickard said: “Climate change will remain a top priority in 2021, as it is recognised as the most likely source of major future disruption. While there will be much focus on how sustainability supports the climate change and resilience agendas, we will also see initiatives to build trust and loyalty with shoppers.”

Showing customers how you’re doing your bit as a business to fight climate change will inevitably help you build trust and for customers that have this as a high priority as part of their purchase decision, you’re appealing directly to their core values.

IGD broke the 3 areas within this trend down to:

  • With climate change remaining a top priority, we expect retailers globally to push ahead with initiatives to support goals in this area
  • Continued implementation globally of initiatives to reduce plastic and food waste
  • Initiatives to build trust, loyalty and better relationships with shoppers, staff and communities

 

Knowing how and where you can use these trends as part of your strategy in 2021 will help define what your success may look like during the year.

At Eclipse we have teams of experts that work on Customer Experience and Strategy and we can help you shape these trends for your business. All it takes is for you to reach out to us and we can start looking at how we can help you ensure success in 2021.

If you want to take a closer look at the release from IGD, you can head over here to check it out.


Couple working in coffee shop

The Continuing Evolution of Digital Design

Design as a whole has gone through rapid transition since the internet first came around. It’s really easy to look back and laugh at, what used to be, a playground of expression and opportunity for new sales channels without any real guidelines or understanding of users, but it was a different time. Internet speeds were much, much slower. People were still pushing the boundries of what was possible (and still are), but they were also much tighter boundries. So we thought we’d take a look back and see how a couple of the online giants did things back then, how they do it now and how design generally will likely change in the future. We will keep this pretty high level otherwise we may as well release a book.

GOOGLE

Google Beta screenshot

Everyone knows who Google are and what their core service is for now, but do you remember when Google first appeared? Firstly let’s pay attention to the fact there are so many links on the main search page in a bizarre array of turquoise boxes. We couldn’t imagine such noise on the Google homepage now, but back then, remember not many people even knew who they were so this was partly education for new users – some of which would have had very little exposure to the internet before. Clearly they’ve tried hard to further highlight the search bar with an additional grey fill behind the search bar, just in case you didn’t see it. Clearly they still had a playful side back then as they always had the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button, but realistically it doesn’t add any value other than encouraging people to search and discover more of the internet.

Also note the serif typeface – yes people still use serif fonts now and you can create some beautiful experiences with serif typography, but the selection is much larger now and screen resolutions are significantly better, but back then you didn’t have much choice. Accessibility wasn’t really ‘a mainstream thing’ when Google came about so elements like the contrast between between the link colour and the background wouldn’t have been considered anywhere near to the extent we do today.

When we look back, we should also look at their logo. The emergence of drop shadows, colour and embossing – look at all this cool stuff – let’s use it all. But to recap, as much as we can look back and laugh or cringe, this was all new technology. This was stuff no-one had seen before so it was in some ways, educating the world as to what we can do. And that’s still happening today.

If we look at Google today however, they don’t even need to establish their brand clearly – everyone knows who they are and what they do. In fact, in June 2006 ‘Google’ was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. It’s true – Google it. They don’t even use consistent site branding, instead opting for abstract representations (Google Doodles) of which there are plenty. This is to both further demonstrate their creative muscle and encourage users to actually search for something they may not have considered searching. Other than that however, the page hasn’t actually changed all that much. The search bar is still the hero on the page, but you don’t need to be told what to do anymore – you just do it. Additional links have been down-weighted to the footer and other services hidden in a menu. Developments such as the integration of voice search have made an appearance and now they have user accounts that store huge amounts of data to provide more personalised experiences to users.

Google homepage 2021
Google homepage 2021
Google Doodles
Google 2020

They still have the ‘I’m feeling lucky’ button which I believe is purely for nostalgic reasons. If people come to this page, they’re coming to search for something in particular – they don’t need their hand held in the process. The key difference is the education of how. Users no longer need to be told how to do the basics and the rate of learning is almost second nature too many users. It’s on this basis, that companies will inject more of their own personality and unique experiences in to their sites. Their dominance in the space is evidenced by the fact they don’t even need to show their brand anymore – their Google Doodles have become almost as synonymous as the core logo itself.

AMAZON

The behemoths of online shopping. Love it or hate it, the journey they’ve been on means they can do pretty much anything they like to their site and users will still use it. Much like Google is that dominant force in online search (although Microsoft, Apple and many others are trying to change that), they are the ‘go-to’ marketplace for many online shoppers. They are so dominant, the largest of businesses also sell via their platform due to the sheer number of users visiting their site every day. So let’s see how it’s evolved over time. As before, we’ll focus on the homepage as we could release a series of novels if we went in to too much detail.

The snapshot above is from 1999 and it looks as though the hyperlinks are partying together like it to. What started out as predominantly an online bookshop, has tried desperately hard to highlight they sell other stuff too. Links to music, clothes, software, DVD’s (anyone remember those?) were all on show to entice people into their site, but a clear lack of hierarchy makes it painfully difficult to navigate or understand what to do. Suddenly we are seeing different font weights and sizes which are starting to introduce hierarchy, but structurally it’s all over the place. The times when pages were built with tables were still rife across the internet. But wait – remember users weren’t really familiar with navigation like we are today. We see tabs, burger menus, mega menus and the like – these are second nature to us now, but back then the mainstream may have been just getting used to this. Again – as much as we can look back and cringe, Amazon were also taking the user on an educational journey. Look at all this stuff – you don’t need to leave the house to shop. The whole idea of being able to see physical products on a web page was novel, but the ability to find the products was key. Unlike Google, back then Amazon didn’t really make much of search and it was tucked away in the corner.

The use of gifs, flashes and product images starting to test your 700kbps internet connection but at the time Amazon hadn’t really understood the importance of search as much as Google. And why would they? It wasn’t their primary business, at least it ‘wasn’t’.

Now let’s look at Amazon today.

90s screenshot of Amazon
Amazon 2020

Suddenly Search is clear and prominent right at the top of the page. They realise now that their product catalogue is so large, it would be insane to try and highlight everything to users. People want ‘stuff’, so let’s have them tell us what they’re looking for and we’ll find it. Using the analogy to their origins in books, it’s a bit like asking the librarian if they have a particular novel in. Too much choice needs some assistance. People aren’t patient – they just want to be told how to find what they want in as little time as possible. There are just as many (in fact more) links as there were 10 years ago, but now there are graphics, rich imagery, clean typography and stripped back navigation. But then that brings us to something that Amazon do particularly well – upsell, cross-sell and personalisation. Just to clarify, I’m not a big fan of Amazon. I truly believe if Amazon was created today, it would look and behave completely different. Product names are painfully worded for the search reasons and the gargantuan level of information is daunting and often hard to read. However, they have such an abundance of traffic and data, they have the luxury of running hundreds of experiments at a time, learning more and more about users every second and customising experiences to get users to spend more money faster. Go on to the site now – you’re probably seeing several experiments running at the same time.

Now we’re seeing suggested categories and products, bright vibrant offers, gift ideas, seasonal deals – the list goes on. Users know that an image will usually link to the product. We also have user generated content in the form of reviews and own images – day to day these experiences are both used and expected as a way to buy with confidence. This goes even further when you’re logged in to your account. The level of personalisation is immense from browsing history, to order status and suggested products based on your search history. There are flaws in this however – once you’ve bought a product, you don’t need 100 suggestions of the an alternative product that does the same thing.

Amazon 2020
Amazon Desktop
Amazon screenshot on Tablet
Amazon Tablet
Amazon iPhone screenshot

Then we obviously have the abundance of resolutions across mobile, tablet and desktop. Much more considered thought is now put in to how sites are designed. We wrote a piece a while ago about how users buying behaviours have changed as smartphones hit the mainstream. Desktop shopping came down, mobile shopping went up. With the current climate they are now at around 50% in terms of traffic split as more people work from home. It’s common practice now to create a responsive site that optimises the experience of mobile users. In Amazons case, they’ve done this well, but also have their own native app that ensures you can stay logged in all the time. Spending money has never actually been easier and people have built trust in these retail platforms to do that.

But to recap, as much as we can look back and laugh or cringe, this was all new technology. This was stuff no-one had seen before so it was in some ways, educating the world as to what we can do. And that’s still happening today, but expectations are higher than ever and they’ll continue to rise in the future and we can’t wait to see what’s coming next and push the boundries of the possible. The internet used to be a tool for research and very quicky, became a $3.5 trillion tool for commerce by 2019 and is expected to grow year on year.

THE FUTURE

So what about the future? It’s an old reference that’s been used for years, but the UI in Minority Report was a mind blowing example of how people saw the future of digital interfaces. But let’s be real about this – we spend hours in front of screens every day. There’s no way we’re going to spend this time flailing our arms round to move files or design. Having said that, maybe you have arms of steel, but I believe you would get very tired of it very quickly. So it’s more about evolving UI in to more delightful experiences – I’m sure there will be many more iterations of the examples mentioned above. Creating more immersive experiences and taking advantage of newer technologies such as Augmented Reality, AI and new hardware such as Lidar that is now becoming more and more mainstream with consumer hardware brands.

Online will continue to grow – especially in the current climate and if you’re relying on riding it out or copying a competitor, you will be taking a significant risk. Having your own identity. Making your online sales process as painless as possible. Delighting users with the latest and greatest technology. These are all things that will help build your base and increase loyalty, so don’t leave it too late – your competitors are acting now and you should be too.

SO WHAT ABOUT DESIGN?

Design is obviously a very personal area for everyone. We have our likes, we have our dislikes, there are trends and there are bends (I needed a rhyming word, but I’m referring to slight deviations of trends). When we look at the examples above we can see people were still finding their way, but information was still the king of the swing. Now however, with new technologies, faster speeds, better hardware and higher expectations, simply accessing the information is not enough. The overall experience will have a significant impact on users perceptions of your business, so it needs very careful consideration.

One of the classic references is that of the abundance of skeumorphism. This was the art of making user interfaces look like real world objects. A clock looked like a real clock. A dial looked like something you’d see on a console. This came around with the release of the original iPhone and allowed designs to flex some serious creative muscle. Painstakingly crafting highly detailed icons and textures to the finest degree. At the time, it was great – it was beautiful. However this came to an end as users became more familiar with using these digital interfaces. Suddenly there was no real need to visualise so explicitly what a note file was.

Skeumorphic example
Image source dtelepathy.com

Then came the flat design revolution. Flat design came in and it came in with a bang. Big, bold colours in giant blocks. Regimented grid systems, no shadows or gradients. Just big, solid colour. The problem was that this definitely more of a trend. Suddenly everyones site looked the same and compromised on usability. Nothing really stood out and the overall experience is what I would refer to as ‘beige’. Don’t get me wrong, there were a few out there that did it well, but they were few and far between and I’m kind of glad to see this one fading away. 

Even Apple went all-in on flat for a while in what was quite a uncharacteristically poor design choice in their main OS UI. This ultimately ended up in a very frustrating experience where there was a significant lack of visual hierarchy and hidden menus, that ultimately made the software harder to use. This was evident across lots of websites, but I’ve called this OS example out given it was such a big slip up on a large scale.

iOS settings
Image source vandelaydesign.com

As people came to this realisation, the creative minds of Google came along and introduced the world to material design. This basically took flat design, put some hierarchy and tonality around the use of colour, gradients and depth in the form of shadows (hooray). But this wasn’t like the Google shadows of old which were harsh and jarring in the UI – this was softer and easier to comprehend. Suddenly the reintroduction of depth rose from the ashes of flat design (pun intended). This too, became hugely popular and still is, but designers are now tailoring designs and lending styles together to create an identity of their own.

Material design screenshot
Image source design.google

And this brings me on to an emerging trend – neumorphism. I would personally describe this as a hybrid between neomorphism and material design. Inputs and controls are using the realistic gradients and soft shadows of skeumorphism, but with the control of execution of material design. So it’s not exactly like the real thing, but it does look like something tangible you can interact with in a more simplistic way – designed for digital interfaces.

Neumorphic example
Image courtesy of bashooka.com

As of late, a hybrid has been utilised in the latest iOS adding more depth to the UI and bringing a hint of skeumorphism, neumorphism and transparency, which has now been rolled out to their desktop OS. Personally, I like the return of more life-like and 3D elements that have been introduced but there are some parts of the UI that are arguably less accessible than before. This is a new deployment however, so I expect to see this refined and iterated on in updates over the coming months.

Before you run off and start creating everything like this however, I would err on the side of caution. This is still relatively new and it hasn’t really been refined as a style yet. In examples I’ve seen, some controls are so blended in, they suddenly become almost invisible and unusable. So this still has some way to go to be established as a good approach. Yes – we can create these beautiful UI’s and subdued environments, but we must make sure it’s used in the right way with the bold colour use of material design and the softness of neumorphism. I actually see this as an opportunity to further introduce another level of hierarchy and identity in to UI, if done in the right way.


Man on mobile

Why You Should Be Designing For Mobile And How To Do It

This is a follow-up blog from the latest Webinar done in partnership with SAP, The Evolving Customer and their need for Mobile First Commerce. You can register to watch the webinar as an On-demand recording here to see Lucy present the information along with a demo of SAP’s latest platform, SAP Upscale, that puts Mobile First Commerce at the heart of every interaction and offers an experience, unlike others.


We’ll take a look at why you should be focusing your website designs on a mobile-first approach. What the benefits are of doing this and some practical steps you can implement on your website today.

 

Why focus on mobile

To put it simply most people are accessing your website through their mobile phone. Smartphones were first introduced to the public back in 2007. Since the first iPhone hit the UK shelves there has been a steady increase in people accessing the internet on these devices. The graph below shows this trend in the UK. In October 2019 mobile usage overtook desktop for the first time and despite Covid sending everyone indoors mobile usage is still up on the year before. This trend is even more obvious globally where mobile overtook desktop back in 2016.

The reason for their popularity is that they are so versatile. We’re now able to have a computer with us all the time and can play games, browse the internet and go shopping all while sitting on the bus. It’s estimated that 95% of UK households have a smartphone. Being able to use a smartphone to take high-quality photos and share them instantly with your friends on social media has also made them wildly popular. Instead of carrying around a camera, all you need is your mobile. Smartphones are cheaper and more portable than a desktop so it’s no surprise that fewer people have been accessing the internet through a traditional desktop computer.

 

Other benefits

Since mobile takes up the majority of the market share Google ranks for mobile-friendliness. Since 2017 Google has been using mobile-first indexing this means that Google will look at the mobile version of your website for indexing and ranking. If you want your website to rank highly on Google, and let’s face it who wouldn’t, you need to make sure the mobile version of your site is designed well and meeting Google’s criteria.

Adobe discovered that companies with mobile-optimized sites triple their chances of increasing the mobile conversion rate to 5% or above. It’s a no brainer good mobile design increases conversion.

 

Success story

Sincerely Nude was founded by London based Michelle Asare in 2018. She noticed that she could never find any nude clothing close to her skin tone. This realisation became a frustration. She has always loved fashion and wanted to be part of the change she wanted to see in the world. Sincerely Nude aims to empower women to feel beautiful and sexy in their skin tone no matter what shade or size.

In an interview with Below the fold, Asare explains that having used Instagram as a personal account she began to study how businesses of all sizes used the platform as a marketing tool. From here she launched the clothing brand and eCommerce site and it picked up in just a few days after they launched. Through great product development and a killer Instagram strategy they now have a following of 16,700. Michelle estimates that 70% of her customers are driven by Instagram traffic. Since Instagram is almost exclusively used on the mobile app all of those customers are viewing her website on a mobile. So, it was important for the brand to have a seamless mobile experience. By harnessing the power of social media Michelle was able to drive traffic and sales through her website. A great success story for a business in its first 2 years of operating.

 

Designing for mobile

Now we've looked at why it’s so important to have a great mobile website let’s get to the nitty-gritty of how you can improve your site for mobile. Despite the upward trend for mobile people are slow to change and are still designing for desktop.

 

The old way – Graceful Degradation

Responsive web design has become the norm. Creating designs that can be resized to suit any screen size. This ideology is known as graceful degradation it is where all the details and complexities are added to a website for the desktop. Once you have the complex version of the design the features are stripped away to suit a mobile screen. The problem with this is that often the most important features and content get muddled together. This can result in the most important information and priorities of the website for the user on a mobile device to be lost.

 

The new way – Progressive enhancement

The future is mobile-first. This is because that’s where most people will be accessing your site from so they must get the best possible experience when they do. This is why you should move to the progressive enhancement method where you start with mobile and scale-up. By starting the design process with mobile then upscaling to larger devices it makes sure that the key information is presented to the user.

 

How we interact with mobiles

We interact with mobile devices differently to desktops instead of a mouse and cursor we use our fingers and thumbs. These are larger surface areas so we must increase the size of clickable elements and increased the space between them. As a rule, 30px or 7mm is the minimum height you should be looking at for a button for example. Any bigger than this then you may have to compromise other areas of the design and any increase in size after this has little impact on missed taps. The graph below shows the number of missed taps compared to the target size.

(ux.stackexchange.com)

These touchpoints should be within the parts of the screen that is most accessible known as the ‘Thumb zone’. Particularly if they require additional interactions like swiping. This diagram shows the easiest areas for people to reach. Keep this in mind when thinking of placement of CTA and add to cart buttons.

 

Image Credit (smashingmagazine.com)

 

Mobile-only features

Mobile phones have a great advantage over the desktop because they have a built-in camera. This feature opens up so many opportunities that can’t be recreated on a desktop. That means there's the potential to have a mobile experience that’s even better than desktop.

Search by photo – With this feature users can take a photo on their mobile and upload it straight into a search which will return visually similar product images. The eliminates the need for typing and lets users snap a picture of items they like while they’re out and about.

Card scanning – This is used for capturing card details which is a big pain point for users and can be a big sticking point in the checkout flow. This is a way to alleviate this frustration, instead of having to manually type out 16 digits the camera on the phone can scan the details and enter them automatically.

Augmented Reality – Plenty of big brands are starting to make use of AR to show products in consumers in their real-life environment. For example, with Ikea place, you can see how a table would size in your own kitchen. This isn’t just for large companies either with solutions like Eclipse’s Ares AR solution it’s possible to implement it on your own site.

 

Practical solutions you can implement to improve your UX/UI

  • Keep only the most important information. This is probably the most important thing to consider when designing for mobile. Without the luxury of space, you must keep only the most important information that the user needs to complete the journeys on your site.
  • Don’t be afraid of a scroll. It may be tempting to hide away content in carousels and accordions to fit everything nicely into the small screen. In doing this you create more work for the user by increasing the number of actions they need to take to get the information they want, that’s if they find it at all. Instead, make use of vertical scroll people have become accustomed to scrolling to find the information that they want so having it open and accessible by only a scroll away will come naturally to users getting them to where they want to be as quickly as possible.
  • Think about where your site will be accessed. If people are on the bus on a train or out and they may have poor connectivity to the internet. People will still expect a fast-loading time. By focusing on designing/developing for 3G by default you make sure you’re still providing a great experience when connectivity is limited.
  • Make use of mobile devices native UI for example date pickers. These are familiar to people as they use them daily.
  • When there is a form field that requires an input with numbers use the numerical keyboard. This will prevent mistyping and allow people to fill out the form more quickly.
  • Integrate Apple/Google Pay in the checkout. These stop the users having to enter their card and shipping details making the checkout experience seamless and easy for users. They also have the added benefit of additional security and are easy to set up.

 

Final thought

Mobile phones aren’t going anywhere so businesses must adapt to the ever-changing market. I hope you found this article useful and that you have taken away some useful tips for designing for mobile. If you’d like more advice on optimising your mobile experience contact us, we’d be happy to help.

 


2020 cutout numbers

2020 eCommerce Trends and Statistics

As we draw closer toward the end of 2020, I think we can all agree it was a year that could not be predicated and although it’s changed how we live, there is no doubt that we’d all like it to be left in the past as we move forward into 2021.

Without a doubt, eCommerce has been the winner of 2020 and has seen a massive rise in and according to some estimates, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated our shift away from physical stores to digital shopping by around five years.

For the last few years, we’ve been seeing more and more people shopping online anyway, but for a lot of businesses they saw a fundamental shift as a far-off future, something that didn’t necessarily need to be factored in right away. Now however, they're being forced to re-assess, and analyse their own approach to the eCommerce shift.

We’ve seen in the news what can happen when you underestimate or underdeliver in this space and the collapse of retail empires that were once the envy of everyone in retail is a startling reminder that the only constant is change, and that not heeding to the warning signs early is tantamount to signing your own death warrant.

The trick is learning from the past, looking into the future and ensuring that you’re as prepared as you can be. Another lesson is to never take success for granted.

In that vein, we’ve found this fantastic infographic put together by WebsiteBuilderExpert that looks at eCommerce trends and statistics from across 2020. Give it a read and use what you’ve read as a marker for your 2021 planning. The infographic has the highlights but they've also put together a full detail Ecommerce Guide that has even more awesome and incredibly useful information in it. If you're looking for a little more, head over and give it a read.

And if you need any help with your eCommerce strategy for 2021, Eclipse is here to help. We unlock your trading potential, creating and supporting beautifully simple sites that are functionally rich and continually perform way above expectations.

Our clients enjoy seamless access to the best analysts, experts and technical resources in the sector. We’re proud of what we do and we’re incredibly good at it (and it’s not just us saying that).

We’re here to support you and help make sure that your business lives long into the future. No matter your size or specific industry vertical, our mission is to see you succeed.


Man at desk with 3 screens

Testing in Testing Times

For many of us, these are “testing times” indeed. In the run-up to 2020, there was a sense of optimism about the future. Businesses were working harder to achieve a good balance between in-store and online, with a lot of focus being put on harmonising the two. There were big projects on the horizon. Investment in technology was ever-increasing. And Coronavirus or COVID-19 was creeping into the headlines…

Digital IT is an ever-changing world. Often described to me as “the place to be” in terms of my career, the last 8 months have shown that IT, Digital and Ecommerce really have paved the way for a step-change in how we shop and interact with businesses. Many companies have had to rapidly accelerate their shift towards digital and digital strategies, as physical stores were impacted by closures, social distancing, and restrictions since the first lockdown in March. As we at Eclipse recognise, shopping trends are changing, and technology is essential. Ensuring we are delivering rapidly, but maintaining high levels of quality is as important as ever to maintain customer satisfaction, and to lure perhaps hesitant customers into this new digital era.

In these testing times, we talk now more than ever about needing to deliver quality solutions, but as we know quality is often sacrificed when time and cost are a greater factor. So how can we adapt our software testing practices and align with the changing world of digital? Here are some top tips for making Testing work harder within your organisation in the right ways.

 

Test Early!

There is a lot written about testing early and a lot to be said for the benefits of it. “Static analysis” or “testing a work product without the work product code being executed” is a useful testing phase that is often neglected. The word static itself implies that nothing is moving or changing and when there is an urgency to deliver, the focus is often to get cracking with the development and ask questions later. But taking the time to fully understand a requirement, by thinking and talking scenarios through, can result in less rework at later stages in the development lifecycle (after testers have found the coded defects). As testers in Eclipse applying Agile methodologies, we utilise our static testing skills during product backlog refinement sessions, collaborative discussions with developers and analysts, asking the right questions (my personal favourite is “what if?”) and detecting defects early before they have been coded!

 

Try “Trifecta”

The Trifecta also referred to as the Three Amigos, is a name given to the 3 roles of an agile team who will discuss, refine, groom, enrich and identify the best solution approach for every Product Backlog Item (PBI) taken into a sprint – Analysts, Developers and Testers. By involving the right individuals from multiple disciples in discussions about solutions and keeping the communication channels open throughout makes a HUGE difference. Having Trifecta sessions including analysts or owners of the requirements prompts discussions on differences in understanding, fuelling our test early principle and saving time and cost throughout.

 

Prioritise!

Everyone wants to have the most beautiful fully functioning website. As software testers, it is in our nature to strive for the best, but we know that this takes time. At Eclipse, we know that prioritising our effort based on factors agreed with our product owners and teams can make all the difference – the age-old debate of breadth vs depth of coverage. We ask about the MVP, we calculate risk and we focus our efforts where it matters. This allows us to be confident in quality levels whilst supporting building the backlog of improvements to be tackled over time.

 

Test!

This might sound strange in a blog about testing, but don’t neglect or underestimate the benefit of any form of testing. Done in the right way, testing can save time and effort in the future, and ultimately could be what protects your reputation. I have seen first-hand how neglecting testing effort can then go onto have the butterfly effect – it can take one customer or end-user to find something that affects their experience, and damage limitation has to come into play. At Eclipse, testing and quality assurance is a default part of our services. We give it the attention it requires and deserves (whilst prioritising our efforts of course!)

 

Automate!

Look for ways to complement your manual test cases, reap the benefits of reducing the repeatability and allow your testers to focus on testing more complex cases; those which often require more thought and are perhaps exploratory in nature. At Eclipse, by automating those repeatable but critical tests based on factors such as those with high business value or functionality where the level of regression and defect rates are high, we have helped our customers to move from irregular large releases to regular iterative releases. A little investment goes a long way; the investment in the short term pays dividends in the long term by increasing manual testers efficiency and effectiveness.

 

If testing is something that you feel needs a little more attention, speak to us about how Eclipse can help you with your Testing approach to ensure you are getting the most out of your processes, tools and teams.


Black Friday image

Preparing for Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas

The last two months of the year tend to be the busiest for retail and this year should be no exception. The temptation of Black Friday and Cyber Monday bring out the bargain hunters and Christmas brings people together as we all lookout for the perfect gift for our significant others and our families.

This year things are going to be a little different what with being in the middle of the second lockdown and Black Friday and Cyber Monday falling right in it, people are turning to online, much like they have over the last few years but this time, there is no choice for alternatives.

Christmas might have the benefit of stores re-opening, assuming there are no adjustments to the lockdown, and with many people making it their highlight for 2020 the opportunity for online is huge. People have gotten used to the convenience of it and those wanting to avoid potential crowds after stores reopen will embrace it.

With this huge opportunity coming down the line there are things you need to do to ensure the most success and things that you could do to make the absolute most of every chance you get. It’s about being prepared and not leaving things to fate. We’ve pulled together a few areas for you to look at so that you can call yourself prepared.

 

Double and Triple Check Your Site Speed, Checkout Process and Scalability

When we’re talking about anything websites or the internet, a lack of speed will turn customers off. In fact, it has been found that 46% of shoppers have said they’ll never return to a slow website. You want to make sure that doesn’t happen to yours. You’ve done all that work to get them there, the last thing you want to do is send them packing because things don’t load or take too long. Using Google Developer PageSpeed Insights tool will give you a good idea of how things are loading and what you might need to do to fix it, if there is an issue.

You’ll also want to make sure your checkout process is as good as it can be. Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas shoppers are fickle. They have thousands of stores to select from and a limited amount of time. They will leave your store if your checkout isn’t running smoothly. This is an area often overlooked by site owners but when it comes to CRO or conversion rate optimisation it is an area that can offer a great uplift. Our Experience team have helped plenty of our clients do just this by analysing the checkout process and implementing changes that have driven huge revenue increases. Taking time to improve your checkout process will pay off for you with every customer post the changes taking place. For a quick win, you may consider adding extra payment options like Paypal. We have a partnership with Adyen who's payment services can allow a business to add things like Apple Pay and Google Pay incredibly easily. If this is something you'd like to look at in more detail, speak to us and we can give you an idea of how to build it into your development plans.

Scalability might be something that you’ve not heard of or it might be something you’ve never thought about, but it relates to your sites ability to handle increases of traffic during these busy times. Plenty of companies have been caught out during past Black Fridays, and when the first lockdown was put in place a lot of websites fell over and put people into queues or even served errors because they just couldn’t deal with the influx. To combat this, it all comes down to hosting. Being on a cloud platform allows you to leverage scalability and open and close gates as needed. Our DevOps team at Eclipse know all about this and have helped a lot of clients build-in backstops to ensure uptime when it counts. They’re happy to talk to anyone who needs a little more information on why this is important and how to use it to stay competitive.

 

Think About Enhancing the Experience For Your Customers

As we mentioned before, shoppers have the option of thousands of stores and when they’ve chosen you, you’ll want to make the experience for them as easy and enjoyable as possible.

Keep offers clear and highlight the reasons why customers should stay and shop with you. Extended returns periods, seasonal discounts, free delivery and exclusive products all give you something to shout about. So, do it.

But beyond that, think about how the products are sorted on the website. Do you have a sale section or gift finders? Is everything in a place that is easy to find and then filter by price or amount of discount? Does the site search work well so that when people use it they’re being shown an accurate reflection of what they’re looking for and what you have on offer? All these things make a massive difference to the shopping experience.

You’ll also want to put some thought into your upsell and cross-sell opportunities. These are great ways to highlight other products that may be of interest to your customers and also lift the average order value of your checkout basket. Do you sell products that have bundles of accessories that make them better or a range of products that offer more functionality the further up the price ladder you climb? Tell people! Things can be easily missed and if a customer looks at something and assumes it doesn’t do what they need it to, they may leave to look elsewhere but if you have an alternative that might fit their need, you need to highlight it. And when it comes to cross-selling, the old problem of batteries not included on Christmas morning come to mind. Don’t let people fall into a trap of missing an important add on purchase that could take their experience from great to troublesome.

If you really want to take your customer experience to the next level adding functionality like AR (Augmented Reality) to your website really steps you apart and gives customers an experience like never before. It gives them the ability to bring your products into their home, try them in their space or even on themselves. It reduces your return rate and gives people assurance that what they’re looking at online will be what they receive. Our AR solution, Ares, is a total end to end solution for adding AR to your website and we can help you implement it with ease.

 

Getting People to Your Site

Having your site up and fully optimised is vital but just as important is going to be letting people know what you’ve got on offer, so they’ll head over and visit you.

Using Social Media is a great way to do this. If you’ve built up a loyal following they’ll be keeping an eye out to see what you have on offer but using paid social promotion and ads on platforms like Facebook and Instagram will help you reach out to a target market that you may not have been in front of before. The audience-building options in these platforms are great when you have a set of buyer personas in mind. The trick is to widen it enough to reach a good amount of people but not to have it so broad that you’re putting offers in front of people that are likely to be uninterested.

Make sure you use good imagery to highlight products in their best light and add well-written descriptions including details about discounts, features and any other information that you think gets you to stand out from the competition. Video works incredibly well too, and it gives you a chance to highlight products from different angles or even show products being used. One of the most effective formats when it comes to ads on Facebook and Instagram are carousel. These give you a chance to add 4 or 5 different products or even features of a single product in a single location that is easily scrollable.

To help drive more engagement on your organic posts, especially those on Instagram look for hashtags that are getting high levels of use. Adding these to your posts can help it be seen. People will be following hashtags such as #blackfriday or #offers. In our own experience, we’ve seen high levels of engagement on Twitter and Instagram when the right hashtags have been used. Getting these right can give your posts a turbo boost.

To further support this kind of activity, look at creating blog posts that pull together lists. List posts get high levels of engagement and things like ‘Our Top 10 Black Friday Deals’ or ’20 Gifts for the Man Who Has Everything’ will get people clicking. Just make sure that the blogs are backed up with great contact that clicks out to the individual products you’ve highlighted.

Another powerful tactic here is the use of reviews and word of mouth. People buy from people and having real honest reviews that can be shared on social media will give buyer confidence in you and your products, but the key here is that they’re REAL and not paid for reviews. There has been a lot in the news recently about fake paid for reviews and people are being told to look out for them. It is an unethical practice and something that you should not engage in any way but having real customer reviews or testimonials in the forms of images, videos, quotes or third party reviews like from TrustPilot or Google Reviews helps build trust.

 

Come Talk to Us

Hopefully, you’ve found these tips helpful and you’ll be able to use them to drive an increase in business over this sale and holiday period. If you’ve got questions about anything you’ve read, or you’d like to take advantage of any of these tips and you’re not sure where to start Eclipse is here to help. Reach out to us and we can work with you to make sure you can maximise every opportunity that lays ahead of you.


Woman paying with card on laptop

Eclipse Partners with Adyen as SAP Commerce Implementation Specialists

It brings us incredible pleasure to announce that Eclipse and Adyen have formed a new partnership to enable more businesses to take advantage of the amazing benefits that come along with using Adyen as your payment solutions provider.

 

Founded in 2006, Adyen was built with the aim of helping businesses to grow. The existing payments technology consisted of a patchwork of systems built on outdated infrastructure and the co-founders set out to build a platform capable of meeting the rapidly evolving needs of today's fast-growing global businesses.

 

Today Adyen is the payments platform of choice for many of the world’s leading companies, providing a modern end-to-end infrastructure connecting directly to Visa, Mastercard, and consumers' globally preferred payment methods. Adyen delivers frictionless payments across online, mobile, and in-store channels. With offices across the world, Adyen serves customers including Facebook, Uber, Spotify, Casper, Bonobos and L'Oréal.

Adyen’s focus is on building a modern infrastructure directly connected to card networks and local payment methods across the world, allowing for unified commerce and providing shopper data insights to merchants. The Adyen platform enables merchants to accept payments in a single system, enabling revenue growth online, on mobile devices and at the point of sale.

Eclipse has been an SAP VAR (value added reseller) since 2019 and in that time, we’ve worked with many well-known and well-respected brands in the UK, developing their eCommerce offering on the SAP Hybris and now SAP Commerce Cloud platform.

Experts in the building and implementation of the SAP Commerce platform, Eclipse unlocks trading potential and turn ambition to reality. Across our UK and Polish offices, we employ certified specialists in operations, project management, analysis, development, user experience, conversion rate optimisation, design, testing and scrum technologies; to mention just the tip of the iceberg.

For our most recent implementation of Adyen into SAP Commerce we worked with an influential fashion retailer to replace their previous payments provider to allow them better integrations with their systems and the launch of their marketplace. The payment requirements that a marketplace has for any retailer are not met by all those who offer payment solutions.

This has proved highly successful and they’ve been able to offer their customers a much wider choice of ways to pay, making the shopping experience better than ever before.

We’re geared up and ready to work with all businesses looking to expand into new markets with local acquiring and payment methods and who want to optimise each transaction, increase conversions, and drive revenue. Our expertise compliment those of Adyen with our experience team devoted to improving your customers shopping experience through creating better designed interactions, finding opportunities for better conversion and enhancing the overall experience with the use of augmented reality.

We’re here to work with you to get the best out of your eCommerce and with the help of Adyen, we can take your entire experience to the next level, delighting your customers at each step of the shopping journey. Reach out to us and we can get the conversation started.